For everyone from recreational players to professional athletes, sports injuries are part of life. In fact, millions of sports-related injuries occur each year among athletes of all ages.
While some bumps and bruises are inevitable, there are lots of things that athletes and their parents and coaches can do to cut down on the prevalence of sports injuries. One of the first steps is learning to identify and prevent common injuries so that players can continue with the sports they love.
Listed below are five common sports injuries, along with tips on preventing them from happening.
1. Ankle Sprains
Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain
Pain is almost always the first sign of an ankle sprain. Sometimes the pain is immediate and other times it's delayed by anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. Swelling and bruising will usually accompany the pain as well.
Preventing Ankle Sprains
Some tips for avoiding ankle sprains include:
Performing ankle strengthening exercises regularly
Wearing supportive shoes made for your specific sport
Wear an ankle brace if you've had previous sprains (those who have sprained an ankle before are more susceptible to future injuries)
2. Knee Injuries
There are several types of knee injuries that an athlete can suffer from, including anterior collateral ligament (ACL) tears, medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears, and meniscal tears.
Athletes playing almost any sport are susceptible to knee injuries, but one ten-year study found that soccer and skiing were the activities most likely to lead to these injuries. Volleyball and handball were most likely to lead to ACL tears, skiers and judo practitioners were most likely to experience MCL tears, and meniscal tears were most likely to happen to runners and tennis players.
Symptoms of Common Knee Injuries
All three of these common injuries are characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee. Athletes with ACL or MCL tears also often hear a loud popping noise when the injury occurs.
Preventing Common Knee Injuries
To prevent these injuries, athletes should work on strengthening the muscles around their knee, as well as the core muscles to promote balance and stability.
Knee braces are also helpful for people who have experienced past injuries. Athletes should look for braces designed to prevent the specific injury they've had before. Some tips for choosing the right knee brace include:
An unloader meniscus brace will benefit those with a meniscal tear on one side of the knee, while a hinged knee brace will work better for those with meniscal tears on both sides.
Wraparound braces are ideal for MCL tears, as they can be adjusted to provide the right amount of support for each person.
There are specific braces designed for ACL injuries. They're usually hinged and offer a significant amount of support to protect the ligament.
3. Tennis Elbow
Half of all tennis players will experience tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, at some point in their careers. Tennis elbow occurs when players repeatedly and incorrectly move their arm.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is characterized by pain on the lateral side of the upper forearm below the elbow when the athlete lifts or bends their arm. The pain might also radiate further down the arm closer to the wrist.
Preventing Tennis Elbow
To prevent tennis elbow, players should work on improving their technique to avoid improper movements. They should also work on strengthening their forearm muscles, warming up properly, and using lighter equipment to avoid excess strain.
Concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) are common in many contact sports, including football, hockey, and boxing. Cyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders are also susceptible.
Symptoms of Concussions
Athletes suffering from a concussion may experience the following symptoms:
Loss of consciousness
Confusion and short-term memory loss
Nausea and/or vomiting
To prevent concussions, athletes should make sure they're wearing properly fitting helmets avoid using their head to make contact with another player.
Schools and coaches should also have a plan in place for dealing with concussion symptoms. It's important to act quickly when an athlete is displaying concussion symptoms to avoid permanent damage.
5. Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon, located on the back of the ankle, is injured and becomes inflamed. Track and field athletes are most likely to experience Achilles tendonitis, but basketball players, soccer players, and other athletes who do a lot of running are also susceptible.
Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms
Achilles tendonitis starts with a mild ache around the tendon, usually after running, climbing, or performing any other activity. Athletes will also experience stiffness and tenderness, usually when they first wake up in the morning.
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis
To help prevent Achilles tendonitis, athletes can take the following steps:
Warm up properly before events
Choose shoes that cushion the heel and support the arch
Stretch the calves and Achilles tendons regularly
Strengthen calf muscles
This information can help athletes and their parents and coaches recognize common but potentially serious injuries and act quickly to treat them before they get worse. Athletes should also keep these prevention tips in mind to avoid being taken out of the game.